# President Obama Seeks Executive Order to Undermine Citizens United Case

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You believe that it's a great idea because you're seeing it from the "contractors can't be trusted" side. You believe that it's only fair for the public to know if certain contractors are throwing money at a candidate who inevitably hands them over a big time contract. Fair enough.

Other people are seeing this from "the government can't be trusted" side. If a Republican (Democrat) representative must select from a group of people vying for a contract, whose to say they won't throw out bids that they see are made by people who overwhelmingly gave to Democrat (Republican) campaign funds?

I'm actually from a "more information is always good", "less information is always bad" perspective. The reason is that I don't trust government or corporations. Hence, I want to know what they are doing. If you have information, and someone is doing something you don't like, you can vote them out (or the shareholders can)

First, I don't think most companies gives to only democrats or only republicans. Keep in mind, we are only talking about federal government contractors. Rather, I expect (say) military contractors give to anyone on the Defense appropriations sub-committee, etc. But even granting that-

Assume a Republican(Democrat) consistently veto contractors who gave to the other party. If voters decide that naked partisanship is a bad thing, they'll vote on it. If they don't vote on it, the competitive equilibria is that no contractors give to elections. This leads to a. fair competition for contracts, b. less money for campaigns.

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Hurkyl
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
In what way do you see corporations discriminating based on political activity? What sort of discrimination are you suggesting? I honestly don't understand what this point is.

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Politicians denying government contracts to corporations that support opposing parties. Major corporations strong-arming suppliers into supporting its favorite candidates (or at least staying out of politics entirely). Spin doctors turning perfectly innocent contributions into imagined wrongdoings that whip up a frenzy of negative public opinion. Corporations avoiding any political activity at all out of fear of being vulnerable to such activities. Politicians denying, out of fear of being accused of wrong-doing, government contracts to deserving corporations that happen to have supported his party

i think the fear is a bit overblown.
You can find people who overblow anything. I'm pretty sure that arguing, as I have, that one should acknowledge these concerns doesn't count as being overblown.

You're looking at this from a different perspective as others are looking at it. I'm still trying to actually figure out which issue is the more realistic one.

You believe that it's a great idea because you're seeing it from the "contractors can't be trusted" side. You believe that it's only fair for the public to know if certain contractors are throwing money at a candidate who inevitably hands them over a big time contract. Fair enough.

Other people are seeing this from "the government can't be trusted" side. If a Republican (Democrat) representative must select from a group of people vying for a contract, whose to say they won't throw out bids that they see are made by people who overwhelmingly gave to Democrat (Republican) campaign funds?

I feel, if anything, it might force even more corruption. If you're, for example, a legitimate California company that just happens to contribute mainly to democrats, might you be persuaded to give to republicans just so you don't appear corrupt?

This is what I do not get. Even the appearance of republican discrimination will supposedly be enough to unfairly influence the activities of republican politicians and companies that donate republican but at the same time it will make it open season for democrats to discriminate right out in the open. Does that really make any sense to you?

I mean this as it is being portrayed in the articles, I did note that you made them interchangeable in your post. The point is that both sorts of discrimination, by whom ever, will be visible to the public. Why does visibility make one more acceptable than the other?

mege
This is what I do not get. Even the appearance of republican discrimination will supposedly be enough to unfairly influence the activities of republican politicians and companies that donate republican but at the same time it will make it open season for democrats to discriminate right out in the open. Does that really make any sense to you?

I mean this as it is being portrayed in the articles, I did note that you made them interchangeable in your post. The point is that both sorts of discrimination, by whom ever, will be visible to the public. Why does visibility make one more acceptable than the other?

The court of public opinion is where much of the actual judgement will take place. This policy is just one more notch of anti-corporate policy that is meant to hurt politically active companies just as much as their donation targets. I feel much of the public will EXPECT discrimination based on a company's donation. It opens up a realm of even more partisan politics when we're already becoming more divisive. Sure, everyone can do it - but do we want to add more weapons to the game?

Something of note - just because a company gets a government contract doesn't mean that the owner/controller/CEO/president of that company is going to be lining their pockets - there still is a value that the government is getting from the contract. Any contract that an elected official is going to be manipulative over will have to defend that contract against his peers (from all parties). Otherwise, if you're worried about cronyism - you're likely dealing with more waste in contracts that are administered by non-elected officials than the few large ones that congress deals with.

If the real purpose of the policy is to end corruption in congress and the white house - then I would propose the following: 1) eliminate tax-breaks for political donations and 2) make political donations taxable when submitted from a 501c3 organization. I think much of the political donations are really just tax havens, so why wouldn't individuals/businesses donate politically if they can get a gain out of it - tax free. I don't think the government needs to be in the business of encouraging political donations - that will all come out on it's own anyhow.

CAC1001
If they are going to do this, require all entities that get government money to reveal to whom/what they are giving donations, not just one specific form, while exempting others because they benefit your party.

But I am fuzzy on the idea of it. I understand ParticleGrl's point about entities getting government money and contracts, that the public has a right to know who that company gives money to in case said company is continually giving it to the official giving them a contract, on the other hand, I also think it opens up the door to a huge amount of additional corruption.

We also have limits on how much a company can donate to a politician, so it isn't as if Lockheed-Martin for example could say, "Vote for us and we'll fund your whole campaign."

Major corporations strong-arming suppliers into supporting its favorite candidates (or at least staying out of politics entirely).

This is nonsense. If a corporation tries to force vendors to donate to their chosen candidates, it will cost them more to get supplies (the supplier will pass along the cost). Its better for the corporations bottom line to just give more money to the candidate themselves. The exception is some sort of monopsony situation, but in that case there is no need to donate to candidates (if you are the only contractor, you'll get the contract).

Spin doctors turning perfectly innocent contributions into imagined wrongdoings that whip up a frenzy of negative public opinion.

There is nothing wrong with this- if people want to vote on the issue of who is taking money, its their right. Your argument is that its better to hide this information from people because they might vote on it?

Corporations avoiding any political activity at all out of fear of being vulnerable to such activities.

Again, if people want to vote with their pocket book and not support companies that donate heavily, that is their right. Both of these points seem to be "if people have this information, they might act on it."

Politicians denying, out of fear of being accused of wrong-doing, government contracts to deserving corporations that happen to have supported his party

If that starts happening, companies stop donating or donate to all parties equally. You seem to forget- corporations do not (in fact, cannot) donate to a political campaign for any reason other than helping their bottom line.

If they are going to do this, require all entities that get government money to reveal to whom/what they are giving donations, not just one specific form, while exempting others because they benefit your party.

The administration TRIED to pass a law requiring everyone who gets government money to disclose the sources of their funding. They couldn't get the votes and it died (too many people in both parties are afraid the gravy train will end). An executive order legally cannot effect anything other than contractors.

We also have limits on how much a company can donate to a politician, so it isn't as if Lockheed-Martin for example could say, "Vote for us and we'll fund your whole campaign."

We do in principal but not in reality, which is the whole point of the law. Right now, if Lockheed wanted to fund a whole campaign, they could give some money directly to the candidate and funnel the rest through PACs and non-profits.

Keep in mind that companies direct donations to individual candidates are already disclosed. The only new disclosures would be money funneled through PACs.

AlephZero
Homework Helper
If they are going to do this, require all entities that get government money to reveal to whom/what they are giving donations, not just one specific form, while exempting others because they benefit your party.

I don't follow every twist of this debate, but why restrict this to "all entities that get government money"? Wouldn't it be more logical (and even fairer) to take the UK approach, which is to make the source and amount of every political donation public, except for relatively trivial amounts from private individuals (say less than $1000 per person per year). In the UK it is no secret that the right-wing gets large donations from individuals who happen to be at the top of large companies (so the money is essentially company money paid as salary and re-laundered) and the left wing gets large donations from the unions (which ironically may also be government payments to the unions being re-laundered!). The figures are all in the public domain for anybody who cares to look at them. Or would that contravine something in US constutution? CAC1001 The administration TRIED to pass a law requiring everyone who gets government money to disclose the sources of their funding. They couldn't get the votes and it died (too many people in both parties are afraid the gravy train will end). An executive order legally cannot effect anything other than contractors. No they didn't. They tried to do it to corporations while exempting unions, because unions usually give money to Democrats. That didn't work so they want to do it via executive order. We do in principal but not in reality, which is the whole point of the law. Right now, if Lockheed wanted to fund a whole campaign, they could give some money directly to the candidate and funnel the rest through PACs and non-profits. Keep in mind that companies direct donations to individual candidates are already disclosed. The only new disclosures would be money funneled through PACs. It is the wrong way to go about it if it will only apply to one form of entity (corporations) that get government money. CAC1001 I don't follow every twist of this debate, but why restrict this to "all entities that get government money"? Wouldn't it be more logical (and even fairer) to take the UK approach, which is to make the source and amount of every political donation public, except for relatively trivial amounts from private individuals (say less than$1000 per person per year).

I don't know if entities that give money but get nothing in return from the government should have to be public.

In the UK it is no secret that the right-wing gets large donations from individuals who happen to be at the top of large companies (so the money is essentially company money paid as salary and re-laundered) and the left wing gets large donations from the unions (which ironically may also be government payments to the unions being re-laundered!). The figures are all in the public domain for anybody who cares to look at them.

Or would that contravine something in US constutution?

An irony of public unions in the U.S. is that they are using taxpayer money to fund their own politicians to expand their power. However, one could also say that about big defense contractors to I suppose.

No they didn't. They tried to do it to corporations while exempting unions, because unions usually give money to Democrats

This simply is not true. The Disclose Act as originally written did not include exemptions. By the time it passed the house, it did have exemptions, but not for unions. Instead the exemptions were 501c4 organizations with lots of members. These are things like the NRA, the Humane Society, the AARP, etc. This exemption was put in place to appease the NRA, a special interest more associated with republicans than democrats.

Trade unions are generally 501c5 organizations, and were not excluded under the law that passed the house.

It is the wrong way to go about it if it will only apply to one form of entity (corporations) that get government money.

Some information is always better than none. Asking for government contractors to disclose this information doesn't obviously hurt either party- contractors overwhelmingly give to the appropriations committees that decide on the contracts, which are made up fo democrats and republicans.

Keep in mind that ITS NOT ALL CORPORATIONS. Its ONLY government contractors.

I don't know if entities that give money but get nothing in return from the government should have to be public.

They already are if they give directly to a candidate. The only issue is funneling money through intermediaries to hide the source of funds.

CAC1001
This simply is not true. The Disclose Act as originally written did not include exemptions. By the time it passed the house, it did have exemptions, but not for unions. Instead the exemptions were 501c4 organizations with lots of members. These are things like the NRA, the Humane Society, the AARP, etc. This exemption was put in place to appease the NRA, a special interest more associated with republicans than democrats.

Trade unions are generally 501c5 organizations, and were not excluded under the law that passed the house.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100...75244772070710374.html?KEYWORDS=disclose+act" it did exempt unions. Maybe this is incorrect though (?).

Some information is always better than none. Asking for government contractors to disclose this information doesn't obviously hurt either party- contractors overwhelmingly give to the appropriations committees that decide on the contracts, which are made up fo democrats and republicans.

It could hurt a party if one of the appropriations committees for the contracts for a certain entity is controlled by the party that may be hostile to that entity.

Keep in mind that ITS NOT ALL CORPORATIONS. Its ONLY government contractors.

Only corporate government contractors apparently though. It should apply to all that get government money.

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CAC1001
I was just watching "Special Report" on Fox News and they were discussing this very issue on the panel. Jonah Goldberg said that this executive order would require corporations that are contractors to police the giving of their employees. So if that is true, it wouldn't just be the money that the corporate management gives in the interest of increasing value for the shareholders, but also the money donated by employees of the corporation.

Jonah Goldberg said that this executive order would require corporations that are contractors to police the giving of their employees. So if that is true, it wouldn't just be the money that the corporate management gives in the interest of increasing value for the shareholders, but also the money donated by employees of the corporation.

Obama hasn't actually issued an executive order, so we don't actually know, we can only speculate. Under the definitions of disclosure in the 'Disclose' act, corporations would not have to police their employee's contributions.

The wording on the executive order would have to be particularly strange for this policing to be the case.

Its too bad Fox News (or any other news agencies) don't take the time to press their pundits for references. I'd be very curious as to why Jonah thinks this, and where he is getting his information.

According to this, it did exempt unions. Maybe this is incorrect though (?).

The $50,000 federal contract cap in the law seems to apply to all types of non-profits, not just corporations. The thing about entities with 20% or more foreign ownership is harder for me to parse, the language of the bill is hard to follow here, and I'm not competent to weigh in. The issue (which is a bit different then exempted unions) that I think the article is raising in regards to unions is that the janitors union might negotiate a contract with the federal government that gives 10,000 employees a$5 raise (to make a silly example), but this won't be considered a $50,000 federal contract. So the janitors union could still make direct expenditures. Its essentially a difficulty in accounting- is the janitors union getting$50,000, or are 10,000 janitors getting $5 each. I think the proper way to think of this is to look at the janitors union as a type of PAC, which is what the act wanted to do. The authors of the wall street journal piece would no doubt disagree. I think we would find common ground in the fact that the law does not contain specific exemptions for unions. Now, honestly, I don't think the disclose act is perfect. I don't think any person, non-profit or corporation should be barred from contributing- but I think that all donations should be made out in the open. Thats part of the reason the signing statement is better in some ways- it makes no bans, simply requires disclosure. Hurkyl Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Gold Member This is nonsense. ... Ah, I see the light. How stupid of me to think that any corporation with power could ever consider using its power over other corporations to influence their political activities. There is nothing wrong with this- if people want to vote on the issue of who is taking money, its their right. Your argument is that its better to hide this information from people because they might vote on it? No, my argument is that it's foolish to pretend that there aren't people who will exploit a lack of privacy for nefarious purposes. Both of these points seem to be "if people have this information, they might act on it." I suppose -- except that I am not taking an extremely narrow and idealistic view of what constitutes an "act". How stupid of me to think that any corporation with power could ever consider using its power over other corporations to influence their political activities. Its more efficient to simply give money to the candidate directly than try to force a supplier to give. Trying to force a supplier to donate will only lead to the corporation paying more money for supplies. Its cheaper and easier to simply give the money directly to the candidate. You are implicitly assuming that corporations will try to influence elections beyond what is immediately profitable to them, (i.e. they may be willing to sacrifice profit to swing an election, even if it won't profit them). Corporations generally can't operate this way- shareholders would revolt. Further, you are implicitly assuming a monopsony (one buyer with tremendous purchasing power). If thats the case, then there is no need to pay for political favors, because they are the only game in town, and will get the contract. No, my argument is that it's foolish to pretend that there aren't people who will exploit a lack of privacy for nefarious purposes. Given thats its much easier to exploit information asymmetry, doesn't this imply that there are as many, if not more people taking advantage of the lack of transparency for nefarious purposes now? i.e. the net 'nefariousness' will decrease in passing such a decree? Do corporations have a right to privacy? (no). Also, as any study of markets will tell you, its lack-of-information that leads to market failures. What we are looking at here is a market (though one skewed by monopsony, the government is the only buyer). Symmetric information (everyone knows what everyone else knows) makes these markets work better. I know of no economic model (even one in public choice theory) where more information leads to worse market outcomes (where worse is defined by pareto efficiency). CAC1001 Its more efficient to simply give money to the candidate directly than try to force a supplier to give. Trying to force a supplier to donate will only lead to the corporation paying more money for supplies. Its cheaper and easier to simply give the money directly to the candidate. You are implicitly assuming that corporations will try to influence elections beyond what is immediately profitable to them, (i.e. they may be willing to sacrifice profit to swing an election, even if it won't profit them). Corporations generally can't operate this way- shareholders would revolt. What if it is a privately-held corporation? Privately held corporations still have shareholders, just fewer of them. Its still much more efficient to give directly to the candidate in question (or PAC, or whatever) CAC1001 Privately held corporations still have shareholders, just fewer of them. Its still much more efficient to give directly to the candidate in question (or PAC, or whatever) It depends on the private corporation though. Koch Industries is a privately-held company with revenues of over$100 billion a year, and that company is owned by two people. Charles Koch, the CEO and half-owner, has also stated in interviews that he never would have been able to build the company to that level over the years if they had been a public company for thereasons you stated (shareholders wanting short-term gain). I would think such a company, left-leaning or right-leaning, could try to influence elections beyond what is immediately profitable to them.

Hurkyl
Staff Emeritus